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Santa Clara City Attorney Doyle Dismissed in 5-2 Vote

 The Santa Clara City Council voted in a 5-2 vote to dismiss City Attorney Brian Doyle, at a special Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 1, with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe opposing the dismissal.

The text of the agenda description “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release without cause” is a legal description. Doyle was an at-will employee, so the City doesn’t have to state a cause for dismissing him. It doesn’t mean that there is no reason for the dismissal. It means that he can be dismissed for any reason that’s not unlawful — for example, race, age or sex.

But for almost a week, Gillmor, Watanabe, former Council Member Teresa O’Neill (who was defeated by Kevin Park in 2020 and recommended her personal friend Doyle for the City Attorney job in 2017) fostered the misunderstanding there was no reason for the action and painting the rest of the Council as pawns of the 49ers — despite that fact that four of them actively opposed building Levi’s Stadium and one of them was a leader of that opposition campaign.

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In fact, Doyle’s conduct has been characterized by conduct that would make people fire a personal attorney. He encouraged the City to litigate a voting rights lawsuit — including an appeal with near zero chance of success — that cost the City over $5 million, when changing from at-large to by-district Council elections in 2016 would have cost the City at most $30,000.

In a likely breach of professional ethics, Doyle concealed a settlement offer from the plaintiffs in the voting rights case until it was too late to accept it, when acceptance would have saved the City at least $1 million.

Doyle augmented his bad legal advice by being routinely rude and insulting to Council Members and actively fostering antagonism towards the 49ers — with whom the City has a 40-year contract that Gillmor lobbied for and signed.

Doyle’s attorney, Thomas Stout, requested that the hearing be conducted in open session, “so the people of Santa Clara have complete transparency.”

This wasn’t possible, explained Gillmor. “The way this meeting was called — it’s ‘public employee, dismissal, release’ — does not allow us to do that [hear the matter in open session].” This didn’t stop people from decrying the meeting as “closed door” and willful concealment from the public.

Gillmor, Watanabe and their followers describe Doyle’s conduct as “outspoken,” and claim that’s why he was fired.

“It’s entirely fair for the City Council [to reject] how the Council acted in previous iterations” said resident Ben Cooley. “But you should not act against people who are executing the actions of that [previous] Council faithfully. Everybody seems to be doing well and it’s not something we need to be going into at this time.”

“Five people just decided to dismiss the City Attorney without cause,” said San Jose resident and Council mainstay, Kirk Vartan.

“It’s just mind-boggling to me …the pettiness of this disruptive newly-elected Council Members … are basically using it as their own personal stomping grounds to do whatever they want in an attitude of, oh, well, ‘we’re going to do what we think is right,’ but is it really right to disrupt the City business? I don’t think so.”

In an email, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Burt Field told the Council Members that called the meeting to “Drive north to the San Francisco Zoo. Smear a couple of pounds of raw meat all over your body and jump into the Lion’s Den just before dinner time… you are hanging a Bullseye on your back”

Field concluded with the admonition “Hopefully I have given you something to think about.” Another speaker threatened, “Look out Mighty Five. It’s coming.”

Residents that favored Doyle’s dismissal focused on his actions in the California Voting Rights lawsuit that cost the City over $5 million; specifically that Doyle had failed to communicate a settlement offer to the Council that would have saved Santa Clara at least $1 million.

“If the [CVRA] settlement offer was not forwarded to the Council, that should constitute cause [for firing],” said one resident. Another resident, Jeff, asked Doyle why he didn’t bring the settlement offer to the Council.

“It’s rather comical to hear so many people be so hypocritical,” said another Council mainstay, Deborah Bress. “You’re blaming people for bringing the 49ers when the person who brought the 49ers here is the Mayor Lisa Gillmor, and her cohort Kathy Watanabe.  I think we should celebrate that we have a Council that has the chutzpah to call a spade a spade and get rid of a bad actor.”

Ironically, in 2016 Gillmor and her allies led defamatory campaigns to hound former City Attorney Ren Nosky and City Manager Julio Fuentes out of their jobs.

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26 Comments
  1. Srdjan Pantic 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Finally they got rid of him!

    • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      It took a while, but that’s the reason the city choose to elect the Might 5.

  2. WTF 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    What the hell? Is Parks and Recreation Commissioner Burt Field threatening the Council members, for doing their job?
    Who does he think he is?
    This is very disturbing. That’s grounds for termination, too, IMHO.
    Where do these unprofessional thugs come from? Say no more – I know, probably more corrupt Santana/Gilmour/Watanabe “friends”…

    • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      I strongly suggest Burt Field to be the next to be fired and dismissed.

  3. Winnie Sloan 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    It is really amazing that there are people criticizing the City Council for doing their job and removing Brian Doyle from his office. Truthfully Mayor Gillmor should have taken this step when it was first disclosed! If this situation were to be compared to a business environment where a manager, executive, finance officer, or attorney WITHHELD information from Management and that then cost the company $1million, we all know perfectly well that that person would be terminated immediately. Brian Doyle purposely WITHHELD information from the City Council that then cost the City over $1 million. With the amount of grandstanding that Mayor Gillmor has taken on this issue, I do seriously wonder whether she knew about the settlement offer letter and agreed with Brian Doyle to withhold it from the City Council. Has she publicly stated she knew nothing about the letter? THANK YOU to the five City Council Members who stood up and took the RIGHT action! You were doing your job for the citizens of Santa Clara as expected when you were voted into office.
    Winnie Sloan
    Santa Clara Resident

  4. David A DeKruif 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    The mighty five are puppets for the 49ers.

    • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      And is David A Dekruif a puppet for Lisa Gillmor?

  5. A Voter 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Good Lord, is Carolyn Schuk on the Niners payroll too?

    • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      And, Good Lord, may I also ask: Are you on Lisa Gillmor’s payroll, too?

  6. Wesley Mukoyama 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Finally, the City Council did what we elected them to do. Ousting one of the main pieces of corruption under Msyor Gilmor with her pawn kathy Watanabe. Equality, diversity, honesty and financial stability will return to Santa Caltrain is coming. However, there is still more anti corruption work to do. Hail to the mighty 5 if that is what you call them. Keep it up.

    • Ted 3 weeks ago
      Reply

      Wesley – Quick update for you. Caltrain has been in Santa Clara for 100+ years. Also, we don’t “Hail to the Mighty” elected officials any longer. That stopped in the ’30’s.

      Take care.

      • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
        Reply

        I would also like to second Wesley’s comments and give a very hearty: “Hail to the Mighty 5”.

  7. THOMAS MacDevitt 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Burt is an opinionated outspoken person. His comments here are not indicative of who he is. Even the best of us are prone to juvenile outbursts. I hope he is not removed for this childish outburst. He can be quite reasonable, and is a good advocate for Parks and Recs. Tone matters, and that is missing here. Please give Burt the benefit of the doubt that he was not threatening council members, but rather just having a sophomoric tanturm.

    • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      Burt owes the council a public apology. If it is not offered, he ought to be fired.

  8. James C Rowen 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Did not Brian Doyle make a comment that the 49ers were threatening his life by talking about “sleeping with the fishes?”

    Field needs counseling.

  9. Ted 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Julio Fuentes is Satan in a suit. It was he who allowed the 49ers/soccer field issue to explode all over everyone (remember the backroom deal with 49ers?). This was the beginning of the bitter council divide, so Gillmor pushing him out was a good move. Can we all agree on that at least?

  10. James C Rowen 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    I agree with your assertion. Julio should have been replaced. I agree that he had no right to act on his own. But so did Doyle.

  11. James C Rowen 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    https://youtu.be/p9oeI5LlwWY

    Like this sophomoric rant.

    Lee J Cobb does a good Burt Field, Mr..McDevitt?

  12. James C Rowen 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/government/governance/ethics-values/code-of-ethics-values

    For a Parks and Recreation Commissioner to talk about using zoo animals to eat city council members and talk about targets on people’s backs does breech the code of ethics

  13. Kirk Vartan 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    What a shame this publication continues to swirl the drain. I know the instinct would be criticize me for saying this or others for doing the same. This used to be a great investigative paper, highlighting the great work Carolyn used to do. But over the past 4-5 years, it seems the 49ers influence became too great. It’s like a one-trick pony…all you can see is the CVRA issue.

    It’s ironic that this blog doesn’t remind its audience that the past council led by Matthews, Mahan, Kolstad, and others were the ones that let this fester and did not handle it to begin with. Or that the City established a citizen committee to define how districts should work, and that the committee suggested a solution. And guess who didn’t like the solution? The 49ers. Why? Because it didn’t allow them to seat their comrades. So the 49ers (maybe this blog too) funded a campaign to kill the district design proposed by the residents, allowing the someone to represent the City with literally 2,500 votes. In a city of 125,000, that threshold seems mighty low.

    Follow the money. Who spent the most $ in the last elections or on defeating measures? The 49ers, sometimes exclusively. It’s sad when an organization is no longer objective or fair in reviewing facts due to ad money and influence.

    Lastly, I don’t know if one could setup a more comical hypocritical rational. The author days Lisa and Kathy brought the 49ers to Santa Clara, implying it’s all their fault and they are snuggling with them. And then states the leaders of the opposition to the 49ers coming to town now sit on the council, almost as the majority of the council. The author makes it sound absurd that the anti-stadium people could ever change. And through willful omission, Carolyn simply ignores how both Lisa and Kathy (and others formally on the council) have been standing up to the 49ers for years when the team showed their true colors, not caring about Santa Clara. The biggest fans were holding the 49ers accountable, and this paper didn’t like that. Neither did Carolyn. And now, the very opponents of the 49ers get millions of dollars of support for their elections. Remember, this included Karen and Raj back in 2018, and of course the most egregious one in 2020 weighing in at $3 million. So, it had been clearly shown that supporters of the 49ers can change, but Carolyn is saying the anti-stadium people can’t? Does that even make sense?

    The 49ers have been planning this for years. Getting Brian Doyle out of the city was priority one. With 5 council members “working” with the 49ers to help solve the problem, they got their wish. Do you think any company that is in litigation with someone would allow their Board to meet with the litigant without company lawyers in the room? Yet, that is exactly what this council did. Suds, Raj, Becker, Park, and Hardy all met with the 49ers when active law suits against the city were (and still are) raging. Do you not see a problem with that? The council is the board of directors.

    $5 million seems like a lot of money. This blog loves to talk about it with regards to the CVRA. But even more was spent by the 49ers to influence the elections and create results that work for them. And what is not talked about at all and no investigative journalism: the ten or so law suits the 49ers have brought against the City of Santa Clara, many active right now. How much that is costing the city, not just actual hard dollars, but in city capacity and resources? How many city meetings focused on 49er business did the 49ers attend (hint: none)? How many opportunities or projects get less time or energy because the 49ers are forcing the city to focus on them? What hasn’t the City been able to do because all the oxygen in the room is consumed by 49er issues? How much energy and time has the council expended on 49er issues, rather than other city priorities? What is the real cost of having the 49ers here and in the middle of the city’s political landscape?

    It would be nice if this publication could step back from the divisiveness of the council and even with people like me that don’t respect the reporters anymore. Think back to when the facts and the big picture mattered. Do what you do best (or used to do best)…investigate. Interview. Transparency. Hold people accountable. And that includes people you are chummy with. And organizations like the 49ers.

    Do your job and be Santa Clara’s investigative paper, not a propaganda paper for special interests.

    • Jean 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      To say that the publication is only focusing on one thing, the cvra lawsuit is okay with me. That one thing was important to us residents. We voted down the city’s discriminatory approach numerous times at the ballot boxes with all the different measures they tried to put up to suppress the minority vote. The city officials did what the hell they wanted and ignored what we wanted and had voted down. The rest of the lawsuits, we don’t know about because of the city’s lack of transparency. I’m tired of the city blaming the stadium for all of the problem. The cvra lawsuit is what we know and care about. How it was handled by the city leaders was disgusting. Anyone at city hall that new about the settlement offer and didn’t disclose it should be terminated or resign immediately. That includes the mayor and anyone else in the city attorney’s office.

    • Davy L. 2 weeks ago
      Reply

      Oh, Kirk, please stop it with all your moaning, groaning, and crying. The “Might 5” and this paper and Carolyn are doing just fine. This council was duly elected by the city and I have no doubt they shall all be running for re-election again. However, I’m not certain about Lisa or Kathy. As for the 49ers, it’s their money, and they can spend it as they wish.

  14. James C Rowen 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Could the paper do its investigative job and find out about the official job description for Speciak Asssitant?

    When was it so designated?

  15. James C Rowen 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    https://youtu.be/n87msBVVJ2o

    Dont worry

    Doyle could reprise Lionel Hutz

  16. Davy L. 2 weeks ago
    Reply

    Burt owes the council a public apology. If it is not offered, he ought to be fired.

  17. SC 2 weeks ago
    Reply

    Bad lawyers can be replaced, and one who counseled for a fruitless appeal and didn’t counsel for a settlement is a bad lawyer period. Good on the council for doing the right thing.

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